An Open Letter to the Mayo Clinic
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
On Behalf of the Legacy of Micah True and Endurance Athletes of All Abilities
To Whom It May Concern:
I consider myself an endurance athlete. I am at the very early stages of my journey and because I have only run one 50-mile event and a handful of 31-mile training runs and races, perhaps I am not the most qualified to write a response. I was extremely disappointed, although not surprised, to read your press release on “Excessive Endurance Training.” The sport that I have grown to love so much is often misunderstood, and a press release from a highly regarded organization such as yours does not help my cause.
First, words and phrases such as “suggest,” “may cause,” and “may have been” are misleading. Your first paragraph states, “True would run as far as 100 miles in a day,” making it sound as though this was something he did every day, while this was likely not the case for True nor any ultrarunner. In addition, I wish you would have mentioned the thousands of people who undertake the challenge of ultramarathons every year and do not drop dead as a result. Of course we all understand that there are risks involved with this sport, but isn’t that true of any sport? Furthermore, research on endurance exercise and direct causation of health problems is ongoing, varied, and therefore inconclusive.
I believe the public fails to understand that people such as Micah True and me are not running to add years to life. We do not run these “extreme” distances because we feel that it is healthy, nor do we run these distances to improve our health. The reasons we tackle long distances and put our bodies to the ultimate test are countless, and can be as deep-seeded as running to overcome something, or as simple as running to guiltlessly enjoy a favorite food. We run to add quality, not quantity, to life. I run for the joy it brings me, and because, as stated in your press release, “physical exercise, although not a drug, possesses many traits of a powerful pharmacologic agent.” In other words, exercise feels good. Running feels good. I do not care what’s happening at the chemical level in my body. I like to run, and I like to run far.
While the suggestion of 30-60 minutes of exercise a day is optimal for many Americans who are currently inactive or who don’t exercise to meet goals or challenge themselves, this recommendation isn’t sufficient for athletes and those of us who aim to push the envelope physically. As one of the latter, I will not mindlessly follow recommendations that fall drastically short of what I hope to achieve. I will continue to strength train, and eat, and make sure that my body is strong enough to run the way that I wish. I hope to be able to do this for the rest of my life. I have no doubt that others like me will do the same.
In February 2013, I plan to run a 100-mile race. Micah True was not the inspiration for this decision, but I do strive to be the kind of person that he was. The loss of Caballo Blanco was mourned by the entire running community, ultrarunners and beginners striving to complete their first 5k alike. He inspired so many people to challenge themselves beyond their perceived abilities. I truly believe that his death will inspire even more people to step outside the boundaries they set for themselves, and the perceived norms in our society. Micah True died doing exactly what he wanted and loved, and I can think of no better way to go. And someday, when I am on my deathbed, I need to be able to say that I lived.
Extreme Endurance Athlete in Training